August 26, 2019
Author: Christina Mott Hesse
Where many medical malpractice cases often turn into a “battle of the experts,” it is rarely enough that a witness meet just the basic statutory and evidentiary rule requirements, as the effectiveness of any medical expert is also directly impacted by his or her credibility, likability, persuasiveness, and other subjective qualities. An expert must be qualified, but also credible to a judge and the jury.
Idaho Code Section 6-1012 requires that a plaintiff must, “as an essential part of his or her case in chief, affirmatively prove by direct expert testimony and by a preponderance of all the competent evidence, that such defendant . . . negligently failed to meet the applicable standard of health care practice of the community in which such care allegedly was or should have been provided, as such standard existed at the time and place of the alleged negligence of such physician and surgeon, hospital or other such health care provider and as such standard then and there existed with respect to the class of health care provider that such defendant then and there belonged to and in which capacity he, she or it was functioning . . .” Further, Idaho Rule of Evidence 702 stipulates that a witness “qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education may testify in the form of an opinion or otherwise if the expert’s scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will help the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue.”
On the path to trial, it is often the case where the plaintiff’s expert testifies the standard of care was not met, the defendant’s expert testifies it was, and each expert explains his or her respective qualifications, background and experience to add credence to the proffered opinions. In these scenarios, the outcome of the case becomes highly impacted by the jury’s perception of the experts. Therefore, it is important to select a qualified medical expert who not only carries sufficient academic credentials, experience, and training, but also presents effectively, credibly and persuasively. It is equally important for defense attorneys to assess an expert witnesses’s subjective qualities well in advance of trial.